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4 simple but awesome ways a mom uses old crayons to improve the world.

The Crayon Collection shows the world how valuable used crayons can be to the lives of children.

While most parents notice how picky their 2-year-olds are when it comes to restaurant food, one mom noticed how picky her toddler was with something else.

Whenever Sheila Morovati took her daughter to eat at restaurants, she discovered an odd trend. Like most 2-year-olds, her little one would hardly use the crayons given to her before moving onto something else.

"After one or two lines drawn, the crayons would fall to the floor or get pushed to the other side of the table," Sheila told me. "The other parents with young kids experienced the same thing."


If you visit any kid-friendly restaurants, crayons on the floor will be a common sight.

But that's only part of the story. These virtually unused crayons would be placed in the trash, never to be seen again. Sheila wasn't feeling that at all. 

"Crayons are valuable," Sheila said. "I know that many students and teachers would yearn for them."

On top of that, teachers have to shell out what little money they have to buy school supplies, and wasted crayons are just another unnecessary item taking up space in landfills. 

That's all of the inspiration Sheila needed to create the Crayon Collection

"Simply put, the Crayon Collection collects lightly used crayons and redistributes them to teachers and throughout the community," Sheila said.

But this is no smalltime endeavor. The organization is currently in five countries, along with hundreds of restaurants and schools worldwide.

One of the thousands of gift boxes the Crayon Collection donates to schools every year. Photo from Sheila Morovati, used with permission.

That's wonderful and all, but you may be thinking, "Wait a minute ... this seems familiar. Isn't there already something like this out there?" 

Another organization called the Crayon Initiative does a whole lot of good by donating crayons to children in hospitals, but the Crayon Collection is a different animal altogether. 

Here are four things that make this organization so cool.

1. They get crayons in the hands of young kids at schools.

Sheila's organization partners with the National Head Start Association to provide crayons to 1 million of America's most vulnerable children.

"There are thousands of Head Start schools in our nation, and sadly many of the children don't have much more than the clothes on their backs," Sheila said. The Crayon Collection provides these children with crayons so they can use them at school or at home. 

This little boy was fascinated by twistable crayons, so Sheila showed him how they work. Photo from Sheila Morovati, used with permission.

2. They partner with big restaurant chains to ensure no crayon goes to waste.

Denny's restaurant is one of the biggest chains that the Crayon Collection partners with. Sheila's team gives Denny's employees information on how to properly handle the crayons so nearby schools can pick them up easily. 

"Denny's participation is truly inspiring and motivating," Sheila said. "We hope that the program will be adopted in other kid-friendly restaurants everywhere." 

3. They show kids that giving is better than receiving.

This is one of Sheila's favorite aspects of her program. For example, she has a group of children in California who visit some of the state's highest-poverty schools to donate crayons. 

"We teach kids in better-served communities a wonderful lesson in philanthropy, and they love it." 

A group of young kids in Santa Monica, California, collect and organize crayons to deliver to kids in need. Photo from Sheila Morovati, used with permission.

She isn't kidding. Studies have shown that children who give to others are generally happier.

Contrary to popular belief, kids actually enjoy giving to others. GIF from the Crayon Collection.

4. They created a crayon curriculum without any additional cost to the school districts.

Thanks to a suggestion from the National Endowment of the Arts, the Crayon Collection started a "crayon curriculum" for all recipient schools — and it doesn't cost the schools a dime. 

A crayon curriculum that doesn't cost schools anything? That's a win-win. Photo by Sheila Morovati, used with permission.

"Local artists have provided amazing ideas for projects so that the crayons can be used a tool for deeper learning," Sheila said.

For example, an artist named Annie Lapin created a project where kids circle a specific capital letter in a newspaper (S, for example, in the image below) and draw lines to connect each one. Afterward, the kids will color the image and create an animal. 

What a creative way for kids to use crayons!

Kids love crayons. The Crayon Collection ensures as many kids as possible can get some.

Sheila offered a few parting words on why this program means so much to her:

"We really feel that the scalability of our model is why we have been able to work with people from all over the world and create so much happiness and joy for kids who really need a little color in their lives."

And nothing is more colorful than the smiles of happy children. 

Color + kids = happiness. GIF from Crayon Connection, used with permission.

Be sure to check out the Crayon Collection's website to learn how you can be a part of the action!

Images courtesy of Letters of Love
True

When Grace Berbig was 7 years old, her mom was diagnosed with leukemia, a cancer of the body’s blood-forming tissues. Being so young, Grace didn’t know what cancer was or why her mother was suddenly living in the hospital. But she did know this: that while her mom was in the hospital, she would always be assured that her family was thinking of her, supporting her and loving her every step of her journey.

Nearly every day, Grace and her two younger sisters would hand-make cards and fill them with drawings and messages of love, which their mother would hang all over the walls of her hospital room. These cherished letters brought immeasurable peace and joy to their mom during her sickness. Sadly, when Grace was just 10 years old, her mother lost her battle with cancer.“

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Losing my mom put the world in a completely different perspective for me,” Grace says. “I realized that you never know when someone could leave you, so you have to love the people you love with your whole heart, every day.”

Grace’s father was instrumental in helping in the healing process of his daughters. “I distinctly remember my dad constantly reminding my two little sisters, Bella and Sophie, and I that happiness is a choice, and it was now our job to turn this heartbreaking event in our life into something positive.”

When she got to high school, Grace became involved in the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and a handful of other organizations. But she never felt like she was doing enough.

“I wanted to create an opportunity for people to help beyond donating money, and one that anyone could be a part of, no matter their financial status.”

In October 2018, Grace started Letters of Love, a club at her high school in Long Lake, Minnesota, to emotionally support children battling cancer and other serious illnesses through letter-writing and craft-making.


Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Much to her surprise, more than 100 students showed up for the first club meeting. From then on, Letters of Love grew so fast that during her senior year in high school, Grace had to start a GoFundMe to help cover the cost of card-making materials.

Speaking about her nonprofit today, Grace says, “I can’t find enough words to explain how blessed I feel to have this organization. Beyond the amount of kids and families we are able to support, it allows me to feel so much closer and more connected to my mom.”

Since its inception, Letters of Love has grown to more than 25 clubs with more than 1,000 members providing emotional support to more than 60,000 patients in children’s hospitals around the world. And in the process it has become a full-time job for Grace.

“I do everything from training volunteers and club ambassadors, paying bills, designing merchandise, preparing financial predictions and overviews, applying for grants, to going through each and every card ensuring they are appropriate to send out to hospitals.”

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

In addition to running Letters of Love, Grace and her small team must also contend with the emotions inherent in their line of work.

“There have been many, many tears cried,” she says. “Working to support children who are battling cancer and other serious and sometimes chronic illnesses can absolutely be extremely difficult mentally. I feel so blessed to be an organization that focuses solely on bringing joy to these children, though. We do everything we can to simply put a smile on their face, and ensure they know that they are so loved, so strong, and so supported by people all around the world.”

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Letters of Love has been particularly instrumental in offering emotional support to children who have been unable to see friends and family due to COVID-19. A video campaign in the summer of 2021 even saw members of the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings and the NHL’s Minnesota Wild offer short videos of hope and encouragement to affected children.

Grace is currently taking a gap year before she starts college so she can focus on growing Letters of Love as well as to work on various related projects, including the publication of a children’s book.

“The goal of the book is to teach children the immense impact that small acts of kindness can have, how to treat their peers who may be diagnosed with disabilities or illness, and how they are never too young to change the world,” she says.

Since she was 10, Grace has kept memories of her mother close to her, as a source of love and inspiration in her life and in the work she does with Letters of Love.

Image courtesy of Grace Berbig

“When I lost my mom, I felt like a section of my heart went with her, so ever since, I have been filling that piece with love and compassion towards others. Her smile and joy were infectious, and I try to mirror that in myself and touch people’s hearts as she did.”

For more information visit Letters of Love.

Please donate to Grace’s GoFundMe and help Letters of Love to expand, publish a children’s book and continue to reach more children in hospitals around the world.

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Images courtesy of AFutureSuperhero and Friends and Balance Dance Project
True

The day was scorching hot, but the weather wasn’t going to stop a Star Wars Stormtrooper from handing out school supplies to a long line of eager children. “You guys don’t have anything illegal back there - any droids or anything?” the Stormtrooper asks, making sure he was safe from enemies before handing over a colorful backpack to a smiling boy.

The man inside the costume is Yuri Williams, founder of AFutureSuperhero And Friends, a Los Angeles nonprofit that uplifts and inspires marginalized people with small acts of kindness.

Yuri’s organization is one of four inaugural grant winners from the Upworthy Kindness Fund, a joint initiative between Upworthy and GoFundMe that celebrates kindness and everyday actions inspired by the best of humanity. This year, the Upworthy Kindness Fund is giving $100,000 to grassroots changemakers across the world.

To apply, campaign organizers simply tell Upworthy how their kindness project is making a difference. Between now and the end of 2021, each accepted individual or organization will receive $500 towards an existing GoFundMe and a shout-out on Upworthy.

Meet the first four winners:

1: Balance Dance Project: This studio aims to bring accessible dance to all in the Sacramento, CA area. Lead fundraiser Miranda Macias says many dancers spend hours a day at Balance practicing contemporary, lyrical, hip-hop, and ballet. Balance started a GoFundMe to raise money to cover tuition for dancers from low-income communities, buy dance team uniforms, and update its facility. The $500 contribution from the Kindness Fund nudged Balance closer to its $5,000 goal.

2: Citizens of the World Mar Vista Robotics Team: In Los Angeles, middle school teacher James Pike is introducing his students to the field of robotics via a Lego-building team dedicated to solving real-world problems.

James started a GoFundMe to crowdfund supplies for his students’ team ahead of the First Lego League, a school-against-school matchup that includes robotics competitions. The team, James explained, needed help to cover half the cost of the pricey $4,000 robotics kit. Thanks to help from the Upworthy Kindness Fund and the generosity of the Citizens of the World Middle School community, the team exceeded its initial fundraising goal.

Citizens of the World Mar Vista Robotics Team video update youtu.be

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To make room for newcomers, the club recently moved into a larger studio with a third station for apprentices or guest artists. Unlike a traditional fundraiser that supports the organization exclusively, Black Fluidity Tattoo Club will distribute proceeds from GoFundMe directly to emerging Black tattoo artists who are starting their own businesses. The small grants, supported in part with a $500 contribution from the Upworthy Kindness Fund, will go towards artists’ equipment, supplies, furnishings, and other start-up costs.

4: AFutureSuperhero And Friends’ “Hope For The Holidays”: Founder Yuri Williams is fundraising for a holiday trip to spread cheer to people in need across all fifty states.

Along with collaborator Rodney Smith Jr., Yuri will be handing out gifts to children, adults, and animals dressed as a Star Wars’ Stormtrooper, Spiderman, Deadpool, and other movie or comic book characters. Starting this month, the crew will be visiting children with disabilities or serious illnesses, bringing leashes and toys to animal shelters for people taking home a new pet, and spreading blessings to unhoused people—all while in superhero costume. This will be the third time Yuri and his nonprofit have taken this journey.

AFutureSuperhero started a GoFundMe in July to cover the cost of gifts as well as travel expenses like hotels and rental cars. To help the nonprofit reach its $15,000 goal, the Upworthy Kindness Fund contributed $500 towards this good cause.

Think you qualify for the fund? Tell us how you’re bringing kindness to your community. Grants will be awarded on a rolling basis from now through the end of 2021. For questions and more information, please check out our FAQ's and the Kindness Toolkit for resources on how to start your own kindness fundraiser.

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